Author Topic: NASA’s Challenges Certifying & Acquiring Commercial Crew Transportation Services  (Read 7590 times)

Offline AnalogMan

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Came across this recent audit report from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) that I thought may be of interest.  Dated June 30, 2011 and 52 pages.

NASA’s Challenges Certifying And Acquiring Commercial Crew Transportation Services

After more than 30 years and 130 flights, NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet will retire this year, leaving the United States dependent on the Russian Soyuz vehicle for crew transportation to and from the International Space Station until the next generation of U.S. space vehicles is ready for flight. To develop this next generation of vehicles, NASA is simultaneously embarking on two paths:

1 . Developing a Government-owned multi-purpose crew vehicle and Space Launch System for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit; and

2.  Stimulating the development of a commercial space industry capable of providing NASA with safe, reliable, and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station and low Earth orbit.

While NASA has over 50 years of experience with contractor-built, Government-owned space vehicles, the Agency has never procured transportation for its astronauts aboard a commercially developed vehicle. Of primary concern in this new paradigm is how the Agency will work with its commercial partners to ensure that commercially developed vehicles meet NASA’s safety and human-rating requirements. These requirements seek to ensure that spaceflight systems accommodate human needs, control hazards, manage safety risks, and, to the maximum extent possible, provide the capability to recover the crew safely from hazardous situations.


http://oig.nasa.gov/audits/reports/FY11/IG-11-022.pdf
« Last Edit: 07/02/2011 02:31 PM by AnalogMan »

Offline neutrino78x

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Speaking of which, I heard somewhere -- CNN, I think? -- that it will be four years before we have human rated commercial crew???? Does it really take that long, or NASA is requiring pauses in there for their own bureaucratic reasons? Why can't it just be "run test a, b, and c", and if you can do it in 1 year, and everything passes with flying colors, you're good to go?

--Brian

Offline HIP2BSQRE

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Just one thing--tell me one spacecraft that meets NASA's standards--not even the Russians can meet them!

Offline RocketEconomist327

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Man Rated is nothing more than NASA bureaucracy trying to maintain control.  We will have at least one vehicle by 2014, possibly two. 

The only thing commercial has to overcome is the lobbyists in DC who want to kill CCDev.

We are on to them.

VR
RE327
You can talk about all the great things you can do, or want to do, in space; but unless the rocket scientists get a sound understanding of economics (and quickly), the US space program will never achieve the greatness it should.

Putting my money where my mouth is.

Offline manboy

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We will have at least one vehicle by 2014, possibly two. 
With me, I'm more pessimistic than that and I don't think they will be in operational status till 2016. But I have no problem with them come online in 2014.
"Cheese has been sent into space before. But the same cheese has never been sent into space twice." - StephenB

Offline neutrino78x

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Man Rated is nothing more than NASA bureaucracy trying to maintain control.

That's what I say!! Especially if it takes a long time! They should be trying to get these things certified ASAP! The goal should be to certify as many launch vehicles as possible!

--Brian

Offline kraisee

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If NASA is really the only customer for such services, then I can understand breaking your back to meet their requirements, but otherwise I wouldn't recommend any commercial company to do it.

Commercial human transportation do not have to meet anything but FAA regulations.   So as long as there are other customers, the commercial operators will be able to get flying, irrelevant of whether NASA flies with them or not.

And once you've proven the system by flying a sufficient number of times, I'd be quite happy to just offer the generic service to any and all customers at a standard price, and NASA can then just choose to fly with you, or not, exactly like every other customer.


The only exception to this, should be if NASA is willing to pay extra for all of the additional overheads involved.   If you can make a profit off extra work because a customer demands it and is willing to pay big bucks for it, you'd be pretty silly to look such a gift horse in the mouth.   Just make sure none of your other clients end up footing those bills.

Vehicle A: Flown 10 times, 10 successes, cost $20m per seat. FAA & Space-X certified.

Vehicle B: Flown 10 times, 10 successes, cost $40m per seat. NASA & Space-X certified.

Customer can pays their money.

Ross.
« Last Edit: 07/08/2011 05:27 AM by kraisee »
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Offline pathfinder_01

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If NASA is really the only customer for such services, then I can understand breaking your back to meet their requirements, but otherwise I wouldn't recommend any commercial company to do it.


NASA has the power to choose which spacecraft will carry it's astronuants therefore what they choose is important.

Offline Cherokee43v6

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If NASA is really the only customer for such services, then I can understand breaking your back to meet their requirements, but otherwise I wouldn't recommend any commercial company to do it.

Commercial human transportation do not have to meet anything but FAA regulations.   So as long as there are other customers, the commercial operators will be able to get flying, irrelevant of whether NASA flies with them or not.

Ross.

The problem is that there are not currently any other customers.

Bigelow will not launch his station(s) until he has assured access from at least one vendor.  The fastest route to development is the NASA CCDev program funding.  Therefore all of your earliest commercial crew transports will have to meet NASA human ratings.

The rest of your scenario only works after the first commercial providers are established.

Alternatively, NASA could choose to leverage its expertise by acting as the FAA's agent in issuing 'Spaceworthiness Certificates' for commercial craft.  Or Congress could rewrite the NASA mandate to give them a role similar to that the FAA has for aviation.
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Offline Jim

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Alternatively, NASA could choose to leverage its expertise by acting as the FAA's agent in issuing 'Spaceworthiness Certificates' for commercial craft.  Or Congress could rewrite the NASA mandate to give them a role similar to that the FAA has for aviation.

No, that is not NASA's role to choose nor would the FAA want it to.  Nor is Congress inclined to have NASA do it, NASA is not a regulatory agency.

Offline Jim

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Therefore all of your earliest commercial crew transports will have to meet NASA human ratings.


Not true.  CCDev does not mean NASA man rating.  NASA commercial crew is another thing.
« Last Edit: 07/08/2011 01:59 PM by Jim »

Offline majormajor42

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Therefore all of your earliest commercial crew transports will have to meet NASA human ratings.


Not true.  CCDev does not mean NASA man rating.  NASA commercial crew is another thing.

so winners of CCDev3 will not be NASA man rated at the end of that contract? Is this because CCDev is for the capsule/craft and not necessarily for man rating the rocket it rides on? ie; if Sierra Nevada wins CCDev3 who pays to man rate the Atlas rocket it rides on?
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Offline Jim

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CCDev is for systems development.  Commercial crew is where NASA buys the ride.
CCDev winners don't necessarily win commercial crew contracts.

Offline kraisee

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Not true.  CCDev does not mean NASA man rating.  NASA commercial crew is another thing.

That's a really good point Jim.   NASA HR Certification is likely to be just a single one of the many milestones involved in the later CCDev contracting process.

Assuming the final contracts are structured in a similar way to COTS, the various milestones are unlikely to be explicitly dependent upon one another.   So it is theoretically possible that the teams could choose to essentially 'skip' that particular milestone and its associated payment, and just aim for the payments from the rest of the milestones.

Such a decision will likely depend on just how much work is required in return for how much money.

Interesting point.

Ross.
« Last Edit: 07/08/2011 02:32 PM by kraisee »
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Offline Cherokee43v6

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I choose to stand by the logic of my initial argument on the grounds that the CCDev participants are (at least for now) targeting the NASA Astronaut launch business. 

As such, their choosing to not meet NASA's Human Rating standards would be a declaration that they do not wish NASA's business.  I feel that any vendor choosing that route would find themselves cut out of future CCDev rounds.  This would slow, if not halt, their development.

Also, as a commercial third party, if you had a choice between two services, one of which was certified to meet a specific rigorous safety standard and one that was less expensive but not certified to that particular standard, which would your insurance provider insist you choose?
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Offline Norm Hartnett

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Quote
one of which was certified to meet a specific rigorous safety standard

That would be nice, but NASA hasn't provided one and probably isn't going to provide one. Tain't easy to kick a field goal when the goal posts keep moving.
“You can’t take a traditional approach and expect anything but the traditional results, which has been broken budgets and not fielding any flight hardware.” Mike Gold - Apollo, STS, CxP; those that don't learn from history are condemned to repeat it: SLS.

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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The real significant requirement so far for CCDev is the LAS which has some very specific requirements: a T-0 abort capability, an in-flight abort capability and the ability to travel distance X in time Y in order to get be beyond the blast radius X of the LV you are using. You might meet the requirement for one LV but not for using another one. So the values for X is dependent on the LV proposed. An all Kerolox LV has a smaller blast radius than an all or mixed Hydrolox LV with the approximate same LEO capability. In other words it will be easier to qualify to fly on an F9 than an Atlas V.

Offline sdsds

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The real significant requirement so far for CCDev is the LAS which has some very specific requirements

Good point!  Note however that abort requirements depend on the destination orbit.  A vehicle launching from the Cape could have full abort survivability to a low inclination orbit but not have the same to ISS orbit, due to the chilling cold and wild waves of the North Atlantic.
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